Toothaches and other dental problems can be quite painful if not treated speedily. To add-on, if you require emergency dental care - due to knocked-out teeth or abscessed teeth - but are not able to visit the dentist due to irrational fear, then it can have a negative impact not only on your dental health but also general health.
For many of us, the poor old dentist is right up there with spiders and snakes when it comes to the things we fear the most. The fear of dentists is a common phenomenon among kids and adults alike. Why are some of us so scared of the dentist’s chair? And what are dentists doing to make that twice-a-year trip a little easier?
Well, here is a quick overview of what dental phobia (dentist phobia)
means, dental phobia treatment options as well as the most frequently asked questions about dental anxiety and phobia!
What is Dental Phobia?
Dental phobia is defined as the severe and irrational fear of dental treatment. It’s estimated that around 75% of us experience some degree of anxiety when visiting the dentist. Although only 5% may be classified as having an extreme dental phobia, the problem raises serious health concerns.
Dental/dentist phobia can cause the sufferer to frantically avoid dental treatment. It can lead to panic attacks, severe anxiety, and serious oral health problems, which create further anxiety and require more invasive treatment. The phobia is more common in children and women, and I generally find that sufferers had a bad experience at the dentist’s in the past – often when they were children. There’s usually nothing else wrong with them, other than an overwhelming aversion to all things related to dental care.
Of course, the chair-side manner of the dentist, and the physical environment of the dental practice, play a big role in aggravating or alleviating fears. Those all-too-familiar sights, sounds and smells of the dental clinic can trigger bad memories. Just as a favourite piece of music can trigger happy memories, the sound of the drill can take us back to the dreaded dentist from childhood.
It’s in the interests of both patient and dentist to have relaxed dental and medical care that helps solve toothache issues and other problems. By doing this, even if an individual is scared of the dentist but needs treatment, he/she wouldn’t hesitate to visit the clinic for proper dental care treatment.
Dental Fear vs Dental Phobia
Fears and phobias are often discussed interchangeably. However, the two states of mind have some marked differences.
- Fear is a strong dislike that can cause avoidance. Though it is not necessarily thought about until the thing you fear presents itself. Dental fear and anxiety (DFA) refer to the negative feelings shared by children and adults that are associated with dental treatment. DFA is indicative of a state of misgiving that something appalling is going to take place concerning dental treatment.
- On the other hand, a severe dental phobia is an extremely stronger form of fear. A phobia is an unreasonable and ludicrous reaction. Suffering from dental phobia makes a person experience a deep sense of dread or panic whenever they encounter anything related to dentistry. The fear can be of the place, situation, or even an object. Another thing about the phobia, in actuality, it's not likely to cause you any harm. However, the person can't help feeling this way.
In other words, being fearful could mean that a person dislikes going to the dentist and puts off their appointments until necessary. The sound of the instruments used during different procedures could be scary, but the person puts up with it.
Whereas, dentophobia presents a person with such fear that even a mere mention or thought of the dentist can cause anxiety leading to avoiding the dentist altogether. This can cause nightmares and panic attacks. The root cause for fear of the dentist and dentophobia may be similar. However, a legitimate phobia of the dentist is more extreme.
Causes of Dental Phobia
- Fear of the dentist can be caused by negative experiences that occurred in the past. Such feelings could be stuck with a grown-up person from their childhood.
- An indirect road to dental fear is through gaining information and becoming bias towards the dental environment from negative implications advertised by the media or dental phobic family &
- It is also possible to experience fear of a dentist because of the concerns a person may have about their oral health. Not having visited the dentist in several months for small reasons like a toothache could result in something big, and they are afraid of receiving bad news.
Any of these concerns could cause a person to avoid going to the dentist. So, how are we, at Oris Dental, making life easier for anxious patients suffering from dental phobia? How do we help with curing dental phobia? Here’s how!
How to Get Over Dental Phobia: Dental Phobia Treatments
Individuals with dental anxiety often experience excessive sweating, low blood pressure, visible distress, palpitations, signs of panic or fainting, etc. Some can experience withdrawal or use aggression or humour to hide their anxiety. Patients suffering from dental phobia are known to miss or cancel their dental appointments, irrespective of whether it is a routine dental check-up or a complex procedure.
Mentioned-below is a few possible dental phobia treatments that are used by most dentists and dental clinic.
- Improvements in oral hygiene and preventive dentistry mean we’re also much less likely to require extensive dental procedures. Technical advances like the dental laser are putting an end to tools of terror like the needle and drill. Advances in anaesthetics make treatment much less discomforting.
- In some cases, oral sedatives are given to relax the patient. These are potent drugs that calm you down, thereby alleviating dental anxiety/phobia at least for the period of the treatment. I’ve seen this work wonders, helping to calm extremely anxious patients who couldn’t sit through a treatment.
- Sedation dentistry is another effective dental phobia treatment. Here, sedatives or muscle relaxation medications are administered, which helps you to deeply relax. In sedation dentistry (also known as sleep dentistry), patients are in a comfortable place hovering between awake and asleep. But, responsive to the dentist’s instructions.
- Explaining the entire dentistry procedure in a calming way is another technique employed. This helps reduce nervousness and anxiety, enabling the patient to overcome the fear of the dentist or the unknown.
- Some dentists also make use of laughing gas. This helps calm and soothe the patient suffering from dental anxiety.
- General anaesthesia is sometimes used to treat d
- To diminish dental fear, behavioural and relaxation techniques are also recommended including deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, muscle relaxation, etc.
#Dental Phobia: Tips to Stay Calm
Your dental health affects you in many ways. If dental anxiety and phobia are preventing you from seeing a dentist, it is a real problem. Without proper dental care, teeth can develop cavities and infections that can spread to the rest of the body. Thus, here are some tips that can help you stay calm (alleviate your fears) during the appointment.
- Visit the dentist at a less hectic time of the day, such as morning hours. There will be lesser people and also fewer tools making noises that could trigger anxiety. Also, visiting the dentist later during the day can cause anxiety to build up in anticipation.
- Carry along noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds with music to help you loosen up.
- Ask a friend or a loved one that you trust to accompany you during your appointment. Their mere presence might calm you.
- Practice deep breathing and other meditation techniques to help you remain peaceful and calm.
Also, know that it is OK to take a break at any given point in time during the visit.
FAQs - Frequently Asked Questions
How common is dental phobia?
According to statistics, approx one in six Australian adults and about one in ten children have high dental fear. There is a high prevalence of dental fear among middle-aged women, as high as one in three individuals. Also, about 5% of the Australian population have dental fear, which has impacted their life significantly.
How can I get over my fear of the dentist?
From medication to behavioural techniques to relaxation techniques, there are several ways to get over your fear of the dentist. By identifying the root cause of it - traumatic dental experience, trust issues, post-traumatic stress disorder, fear of losing control, or any other past traumatic experiences - you’d be able to begin your journey of overcoming this irrational fear, or it may help you reduce the fear to manageable levels. Sometimes anxiety associated with other conditions like OCD
(obsessive-compulsive disorder), claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces), etc can also cause dental anxiety and phobia. Thus, identify the cause, which will help you to seek out the right guidance and possible treatment for dental phobia.
Can the dentist give you something for anxiety?
Most dentists prescribe mild sedatives or anxiety mediations that help calm nervous patients before the treatment commence. These calming pills or muscle relaxation medications are strictly supervised and only a single, small dose is given before a dental procedure. Only medication prescribed by your dentist or doctor must be taken. And, it is best that someone accompanies you to the dental clinic or drives you there if you have taken medication before the appointment.
Why you shouldn't be afraid of the dentist?
When it comes to oral health, your dentist knows the best. A professional dentist wouldn’t recommend any treatment if not required. He will take care that the entire dentistry procedure is as comfortable as possible. If you are afraid or anxious about a dental procedure, it is best to talk to your dentist, and together you’ll be able to deal with any problems much more effectively. Lastly, with the advance in technology, many dental procedures cause minimal to no discomfort. Also, most dental clinics offer a friendly environment, which helps alleviate fear to a greater extent after the first appointment.
Need Dental Care Services Around Sunshine Coast?
If you or your children experience dental phobia or anxiety, please don’t be afraid to tell us. It’s your right as a patient and our job as dentists to know. Dental phobia is a problem we take as seriously as tooth decay or gum disease. And yes, it can be treated and prevented. To book an appointment call us on (07) 5444 4308 & 1300 70 60 90 or use the contact form below to get in touch with us.